Review of John Piper’s Chapter in “From Heaven He Came & Sought Her” – Part 2

 

Definite Atonement & the Free Offer of the Gospel.

Piper asserts his belief that the free offer of the gospel to all people is one of the “benefits” or “intentions” of God in the atonement (657-664).

Scripture teaches the “free offer” of the gospel to all. But this is not something that the atonement itself “accomplished,” especially on Piper’s view of things.

In fact, this is one of the key problems with definite atonement and is one of two main reasons why so many in the Reformed tradition like Bruce Ware (see Part 1) reject it (the other being the exegetical evidence is clearly against limited atonement).

Piper correctly states that Shultz argues one cannot preach the gospel sincerely to all people on the platform of definite atonement: “If Christ did not pay for the sins of the non-elect, then it is impossible to genuinely offer salvation to the non-elect, since there is no salvation available to offer them” (658).

Piper takes strong umbrage at this claim.

We need to note that this claim articulated by Shultz has been made by many in the Reformed tradition since the days of the ascendency of limited atonement in the late 16th century.

Piper, quoting Roger Nicole, totally misses the point of Shultz’s argument: “if the terms of the offer be observed, that which is offered be actually granted” (658-59).

Certainly no one disputes this. All Calvinists and all non-Calvinists agree with this statement. Piper attempts to justify the validity of an “offer” if the one offering “always and without fail gives what is offered to everyone who meets the terms of the offer” (659).

But is this all that is necessary? What would constitute a valid offer? At least four elements would seem to be necessary.

  1. A sincere desire on the part of the one offering to give something.
  2. The one offering possesses that which he offers.
  3. The one offering desires that the thing offered be accepted.
  4. The recipients of the offer are able to fulfill the condition of the offer.

The key point Shultz is making is that one has to be able to give what is offered to any and everyone who comes. The simple fact is, according to definite atonement, if one of the non-elect were to respond to the offer, it would be impossible for God to give salvation for no atonement exists for the non-elect to be given to any one of them.

Piper, following John Murray, attempts to blunt the force of this by arguing that what is offered in the gospel is Christ. This is a clever sidestepping of the issue. Of course it is Christ who is offered! But on what grounds is Christ offered to all? He can be offered on the grounds that He has paid the price for every person’s sin.

Furthermore, though Piper himself does not make the claim, it will not do to argue that the non-elect will not come since they are not given the effectual call. This, too, sidesteps the issue.

Here is an example of Piper’s confused logic:

“What is offered to the world, to everyone who hears the gospel, is not a love or a saving achievement designed for all and therefore especially for no one; but rather, what is offered is the absolute fullness of all that Christ achieved for his elect. This fullest of all possible achievements is offered to all — because Christ is offered to all. And thus definite atonement turns out to be the only ground of a fully biblical offer of the gospel” (659-660).

  1. Piper says what is offered is offered to the “world, to everyone who hears the gospel.”
  2. What is offered is not something “designed” for all.
  3. What is offered to the whole world is the “absolute fullness of all that Christ achieved for his elect.”

How, by any stretch of logic, can that which Christ designed and achieved only for the elect be offered to everyone in the world?

Piper’s conclusion, “And thus definite atonement turns out to be the only ground of a fully biblical offer of the gospel,” is totally unwarranted.

This claim is astounding to me. Piper thinks that all Calvinists and non-Calvinists who affirm unlimited atonement do not have grounds for offering the gospel in a “fully biblical” manner.

Piper turns from a consideration of the validity of the universal offer to the genuineness of that offer (661-64).

First, Piper mentions those who appeal to God’s foreknowledge as problematic for the sincerity of the gospel offer. I do not know of a single Calvinist or non-Calvinist who makes the argument that the offer of salvation to all cannot be sincere since Christ knows who will accept and who will not.

The reason the offer cannot be sincere on a definite atonement scheme is because the non-elect are being offered something that does not, in fact, exist for them.

Second, Piper states that the “bottom line objection” is not what God knows, but what God desires. Piper takes the position of most Calvinists by arguing that God is able to desire something sincerely, yet nevertheless decide that what he desires will not come to pass.

But again, Piper engages in a subtle shift away from the issue at hand. The issue is not the question of God’s two wills as many affirm in Reformed theology. The issue is our offering something to the non-elect which does not exist for them to receive.

Piper never answers this question. He rather engages in futile evasions. His argument here is off point and is simply a red herring.

I might also add that it is ultimately incoherent to argue that we do not offer people the possibility of salvation. Even on the Reformed understanding of salvation, salvation for the elect is both possible and inevitable because of election and efficacious calling. Unless one wants to argue for justification in eternity or justification at the cross (Hyper-Calvinist errors), then one has to affirm Christ’s death make’s possible salvation until the point of faith when that salvation is applied to the elect.

 

The Atonement’s Sufficiency & Definite Atonement.

Piper fails to address this issue directly in his chapter, but it is a vital issue for the question of the extent of the atonement and preaching.

Several points are in order.

  1. If limited atonement is correct, Jesus did not substitute himself on the cross for the sins of the non-elect.

 

  1. Therefore, it is impossible that the non-elect could ever be saved since there is no atonement made for their sins. They are in the same unsaveable state they would be if Jesus had never come at all.

 

  1. It is impossible that the atonement can ever be described as sufficiently able to save the non-elect in any way other than hypothetical: something can’t be sufficient for anyone for whom it is non-existent. To suggest otherwise is simply to engage in word games, obfuscation, or equivocation.

 

  1. Further complications emerge concerning the preaching of the gospel. How can preachers universally and indiscriminately offer the gospel in good faith to all people, which clearly includes many who are non-elect, when there is no gospel to offer them, that is, when there is no satisfaction for all their sins? The usual response is that we don’t know who the elect are, so we offer the gospel to all. But this misses the point and the problem. The issue is not that we don’t know who the elect are. That is a given. The issue is we are offering something to all people, including those who turn out to be non-elect, that indeed does not exist for all to whom the offer is made. An offer made to all sinners entails contradiction as the preacher knows that the satisfaction for sins by Christ on the cross was not made for all to whom the gospel comes, but pretends and speaks as if there is a legitimate offer to all to whom the gospel is preached.

 

  1. The problem is even more acute with respect to the gospel offer by God when it is understood that it is God Himself making the offer through us. Second Corinthians 5:18-20 makes it clear that it is God offering salvation to all people through the church on the grounds of the atonement of Christ. If He Himself has limited that substitution to only the elect, how can He make such an offer genuinely to all people? It would appear such is not possible.

 

  1. If Christ did not die for the sins of all people, what exactly is it unbelievers are guilty of rejecting? There is no atonement for their sins for them to reject! Unbelief of the gospel by its very definition involves rejection of God’s provision of grace through Christ’s death. The Scripture makes use of universal exhortations to believe the gospel. Definite atonement deprives these commands of their significance.

 

Calvinists who affirm definite atonement cloud the issue of sufficiency when they tell us that Christ’s death is sufficient in the sense that if anyone believes the gospel, he will find a sufficient atonement for his sins. Therefore, all people are saveable, insofar as if anyone believes, he will be saved. No one doubts that! That proposition is true as far as it goes because it only speaks to the causal relationship between faith and salvation: anyone who truly believes will certainly be saved.

But Calvinists exhibit their confusion on this issue when asked why this is so. Their response: because there is an atonement of infinite value able to be applied to the one who believes. Of course there is. But ask the question this way: suppose one of the non-elect should believe, could they be saved? Not according to the definite atonement position because no satisfaction for sins exists for the non-elect.[1]

Imagine that Christ had not died at all on the cross. Now, in such a scenario, imagine this statement: “if anyone believes in Christ, he shall be saved.” Such a statement is meaningless nonsense and is, in fact, false. In this scenario, there is no means provided for anyone to be saved regardless of whether they believe or not. This is precisely where the non-elect stand in relation to the cross of Christ and their sin in the definite atonement scheme.

If there is no atonement for some people, then those people are not saveable. If no atonement exists for some, how is it possible that the gospel can be offered to those people for whom no atonement exists? If anyone is not saveable, he is not offerable. One cannot offer the gospel in any consistent way to someone for whom no atonement exists.

Only universal atonement grounds the free offer of the gospel to all people.

There is a provision of forgiveness for all to whom the gospel comes. There is a provision of forgiveness for all who come to the gospel.

 

Summing up the Problems with Piper’s Chapter.

Adherence to definite atonement negatively impacts three areas of practical theology.

1) The Problem of the Diminishing of God’s Universal Saving Will

Calvinists have trouble defending God’s universal saving will from the platform of limited atonement. The basic issue is this: if Christ did not die for the non-elect, how can this be reconciled with passages of Scripture such as John 17:21,23; 1 Tim. 2:4-6; and 2 Pet 3:9 that affirm God desires the salvation of all people? Moderate Calvinists and non-Calvinists have no trouble here since they affirm Christ did indeed die for the sins of all people, hence God can make “the well-meant offer” to all.

Without belief in the universal saving will of God and a universal extent in Christ’s sin-bearing, there can be no well-meant offer of the salvation from God to the non-elect who hear the gospel call.

2) Problems for the Genuine Offer of the Gospel in Evangelism

We are to express and display God’s love for humanity in the way we command all men to repent, in our preaching of the gospel, in our compassionate invitations, and in our indiscriminate offerings of Christ to all. Christ’s own heart and ministry, in this respect, is our pattern. We are to point the lost to the sufficiency of Christ to save them. In addition to Christ’s express evangelistic commands and God’s will that all be saved, Christ’s actual sufficiency in his atonement for all should also form a basis for our evangelism.

Limited atonement undermines the well-meant gospel offer. We are to evangelize because God wills all men to be saved and has made atonement for all men, thus removing the legal barriers that necessitate their condemnation. Christ died not only for “sinners” but for the sins of all sinners. When Calvinists use the terminology “Christ died for sinners,” the term “sinners” becomes something of a code word for “the elect only.” In order to be consistent with their theology, Calvinists must resort to the deliberately vague statement “Christ died for sinners.”

3) Problems for Preaching

Anything that makes the preacher hesitant to make the bold proclamation that “Christ died for your sins” is wrong. If one thinks it is true that Christ only suffered for some, preaching will be deeply affected. The preacher does not know who the elect are, so he must preach to all as if Christ’s death is applicable to them, even though he knows and believes all are not capable of salvation. This makes the preacher operate on the basis of something he knows to be untrue. This is a problem for the pulpit.

From the standpoint of preaching, the free and well-meant offer of the gospel for all people necessarily presupposes that Christ died for the sins of all men.

 

Piper’s Conclusion: Preach the Fullness of Definite Atonement.

Piper concludes that the aim of preaching is to display the fullness of God’s glory.

“The glory of the cross is the fullness of its definite achievement. Therefore, we diminish the glory of the cross and the glory of grace and the glory of God when we diminish definite atonement” (667).

Just the opposite is true. There is no statement in Scripture that says Christ died only for the sins of the elect. There are many statements that affirm Christ died for the sins of all.

Definite atonement represents a departure from the historic Christian consensus that Jesus suffered for the sins of all humanity. 2) Biblically, the doctrine of limited atonement simply does not reflect the teaching of Scripture. 3) Theologically and logically, limited atonement is flawed and ultimately indefensible. 4) Practically, limited atonement creates serious problems for God’s love and universal saving will; it provides an insufficient ground for evangelism by undercutting the well-meant gospel offer; and it undermines the bold proclamation of the gospel in preaching.

Definite atonement is a distortion of the gospel. When we fail to preach the gospel of 1 Corinthians 15:3, which includes preaching the fact of Christ’s death for the sins of all people, we diminish the glory of the cross and the glory of grace and the glory of God . . . and the glory of God’s love.

The doctrine of limited atonement truncates the gospel and the glory of God by sawing off the arms of the cross too close to the stake.

God’s glory is indeed what it is all about. Unlimited atonement brings God not just “greater glory” but maximal glory.

[1] Some may try to evade the issue by arguing that the non-elect will not believe because they cannot believe apart from effectual calling. There are two problems with this response. First, it begs the question whether the Reformed understanding of total depravity as total inability and the Reformed notion of effectual calling are correct. Second, even if these are correct, the problem is not lessened: one cannot offer something to another in good faith when that “something” does not exist.

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15 thoughts on “Review of John Piper’s Chapter in “From Heaven He Came & Sought Her” – Part 2

  1. Thanks, again, Dr. Allen, for your breakdown of this most untenable of all Calvinistic inferences. I don’t doubt John Owen’s brilliance but the holy integrity of God and the simple clarity of Scripture is at stake here. You have successfully exposed the semantic chicanery needed to defend true and historical Calvinism.

    Now my question for our side of the debate: How can we affirm God’s genuine desire for everyone’s salvation when some live and die without ever even hearing about Jesus; and we insist that the atoning work of Christ cannot be imputed to those who do not hear about Him, now that He has come?

    We back into the same kind of error as we accuse the Calvinists of.

    It seems to me that it would be possible, rational, and biblical to believe that responsible adults who never hear, today, could be justified by penitent faith in whatever truth they have been exposed to; like the saints who lived before Jesus’ incarnation. They could not enjoy the assurance that we can but they need not all be presumed to perish. (Nor should they all be presumed to be saved.)

    How can we hold people responsible for responding to a message they never heard without apologizing to Calvinists for opposing their teaching that the non elect could be “justly” damned for rejecting a message that they had no ability to receive?

    What are your thoughts on this?

  2. Pingback: John Piper and Definite Atonement | Part Two | SBC Today

  3. Dr. Allen together with Steve Lemke edited a book entitled, “Whosoever Will,” a critique of Calvinism. Dr. Allen contributed a chapter entitled, “The Atonement: Limited or Universal?”

    In this chapter, Dr. Allen says, “Three major areas comprise the subject of the atonement: intent, extent, and application.” (pg 64) Dr. Allen then addresses the area of the “extent” of the atonement in the chapter.

    From what I have read, much of the confusion on Limited Atonement results from the confusion between the “intent” and the “extent” of the atonement. The “L” of TULIP is a statement about the “intent” of God in the atonement. The famous argument for this is presented by John Owen in his book, “The Death of Death.” No scholar (so far as I know) has taken on Owen and challenged him directly on the argument he makes in that book. Everyone seems to argue for the “extent” of the atonement. We see this in statements like, “Sufficient for all (extent) but efficient for the elect (intent).” Even Owen refers to this approvingly and writes several pages affirming the sufficiency of the atonement for all.

    So, here we have a book – “From Heaven He Came and Sought Her” – and have to wonder what new could be said that Owen did not already say. Does this mean that we have to labor through 700 pages to find that the answer is, No?

    Nonetheless, much effort seems to be directed by non-Calvinists to explaining how the “extent” of the atonement covers all people. That is not the issue. If one wants to destroy “Limited Atonement,” one must address the issue of “intent.” Dr. Allen does not do this in my opinion – other than taking a swipe at it here and there – (and I really don’t think anyone else has ever really attempted this).

  4. Doug,

    Thanks for your comment and question.

    The question of the unevangelized is difficult for all Christians, regardless of theological position.

    This will only be a brief response, and may not be satisfying to you. But here goes!

    Romans 1:18-32 appears to me to be the best place for us to go to answer your question. There we learn three things: 1) Even those who never hear the gospel, for whatever reason, have the witness of creation and the witness of conscience that should convict them of God’s existence and their accountability to God. 2) Since they don’t respond to this revelation, they are culpable before God. 3) This situation does not impugn God’s character.

    A large reason for why people have never heard the gospel is the Church’s disobedience to the Great Commission.

    You are arguing for the position of “inclusivism.” Yet the Scripture nowhere teaches that anyone can be saved apart from repentance and faith in Christ.

    Thus, to answer the first part of your question in your final paragraph, God holds people responsible for a message they have never heard because of what He has said in Romans 1.

    As to the second part of your question, that becomes a moot point if my answer to the first part of your question is accurate. There is nothing to apologize to them for, regardless of whether we believe their understanding of total depravity, election, and effectual calling is accurate or not.

    David L. Allen

    • David, thanks so much for taking the time to respond. You don’t owe me a free education and I hope I never come across as impertinent, petty, or ungrateful.

      I agree that the question of the un-evangelized is difficult for us all but I can’t leave it alone or relegate it to a secondary status; salvation is an important topic. Plus, I can’t get free of the notion that we must get this issue right if we ever hope to drive the final nail in the coffin of the Calvinistic errors, this side of heaven. (I have a dream…!)

      As contrary as it might seem, I tend to think that getting this question right would also have a tremendous apologetic impact as well. It has been said that heresy is the unpaid debt of the Church; we owe it to God to fix this one. We don’t need to sacrifice the exclusivity of our Christian faith to acknowledge that humble believers in the rudimentary truths of conscience and creation, today, can be saved by Christ (like Job and co in the OT). If Job is in heaven it will be on the merits of Christ. If the revelation of nature and conscience is sufficient truth to condemn us, when rejected, then it stands to reason that it is enough to impute the righteousness of Christ to those who humbly receive it. God explained to Job, in no uncertain terms, that the creation is more than enough to convince us of God’s trustworthiness, even in the face of suffering and injustice. (Job was not questioning God’s existence. He was questioning God’s invisible attributes (like wisdom and righteousness). The answer God gave was the creation.

      I think a potent view of common grace is a strong answer to the flawed Calvinistic definition(s) of “dead in sin”/ “total inability.”

      I disagree when you say “the Scripture nowhere teaches that anyone can be saved apart from repentance and faith in Christ”. I could agree if you said “apart from repentance and faith in the truth”. I’m not even sure that I could agree that the NT is explicit on this point. (It is clear that there is no biblical hope for anyone who rejects Jesus.) It is evident that the Hebrews 11 saints were justified by faith before the coming of Christ and the case can certainly be made that Cornelius would have gone to heaven if he died before Peter brought him the good news of Jesus. Cornelius could not have enjoyed the blessed assurance that is available to us, who come to like precious faith in Christ, but I can’t bring myself to assume that he would have perished if the church didn’t get him the gospel before he died. Cornelius believed the truth (little t). He had learned from the Father (J 6:44), thus, he was quick to receive the Son /Truth.

      This view does not “rip the heart” out of evangelism and missions… it makes up for the lack of evangelism and missions.

      Sorry so long. I will leave you alone! Please don’t feel obligated to respond.

      Looking for that Blessed Hope…

      DS

  5. Rhutchin,

    Thanks for your interaction. Good to hear from you again.

    You are correct that much of the confusion over limited atonement surrounds the failure to properly distinguish between the “intent” and “extent” of the atonement.

    You are incorrect when you state that the “L” in TULIP is a statement about the “intent” of God in the atonement. No, it is primarily about the extent and answers the question “for whose sins did Christ die?” Of course, intent is a vital part of the question.

    You are correct that Owen is the famous proponent of limited atonement and he does address the issue of “intent” in the atonement. His basic premise is that intent = extent. Christ only dies for the sins of those people (the elect) he “intends” to save. Intent and extent are coextensive for Owen.

    You are incorrect to assert that no scholar has “taken on Owen” over this issue. In fact, many have, and the most well-known are Calvinists! In my chapter in “Whosoever Will,” which you mention, I cite several who have opposed Owen on this, including the likes of John Davenant, Richard Baxter, Charles Hodge, R. L. Dabney, W. G. T. Shedd, and many more.

    On a more contemporary note, consult Calvinists Alan Clifford, Curt Daniel, and Neil Chambers. All are cited in my chapter.

    You are also incorrect in your assumption that “From Heaven He Came and Sought Her” does not say anything new that Owen did not say. It does indeed, and should be read by all, whether Calvinist or non-Calvinist.

    Likewise, you are incorrect to suggest that the “extent” of the atonement is not the issue. It is the issue. But you are correct to say that the “intent” of the atonement is the ultimate issue. I said the same thing in my chapter. Both “intent” and “extent” should be studied.

    Finally, let me speak to your use of the word “destroy.” If by that metaphor you mean simply to illustrate how and why the arguments for limited atonement are invalid, then that is exactly what I, and many other Calvinists and non-Calvinists, are attempting to do.

    Whether I have succeeded in any way in successfully addressing the question of the “intent” of the atonement, I’ll leave to my readers.

    David L. Allen

    • Dr. Allen writes, “Likewise, you are incorrect to suggest that the “extent” of the atonement is not the issue.”

      I am not so sure. In Book IV of “Death…” Owen writes, “…we affirm, such and so great was the dignity and worth of [Christ’s] death and blood-shedding, of so precious a value, of such an infinite fulness and sufficiency was this oblation of himself, that it was every way able and perfectly sufficient to redeem, justify, and reconcile and save all sinners in the world, and to satisfy the justice of God for all the sins of all mankind, and to bring them every one to everlasting glory.”

      That is my understanding of the argument for the “extent” of the atonement that you make in “Whosoever Will,” and the same that others make – even Calvinists.

      Earlier, regarding intent, Owen writes, “…for [the atonement] being a price for all or some does not not arise from its own sufficiency, worth or dignity, but from the intention of God…” Also, “That [the atonement] did formally become a price for any is solely to be ascribed to the purpose of God, intending their purchase and redemption by it.”

      To say that Owen’s “basic premise is that intent = extent,” is to completely misunderstand Owen’s argument. Owen clearly distinguishes between the extent and intent of the atonement. The first few pages of Book IV make this very clear. Owen goes to great lengths to separate extent (the value, worth, and dignity of the atonement) and intent (God’s purpose and design for the atonement).

      This appears to be a point of significant confusion on Limited Atonement. I don’t see how it is possible to misread Owen on this given his argument beginning Chapter IV.

    • Dr. Allen writes, “You are incorrect when you state that the “L” in TULIP is a statement about the “intent” of God in the atonement. No, it is primarily about the extent and answers the question “for whose sins did Christ die?”

      Owen begins “Death…” with this, “By the end of the death of Christ, we mean, in general, both, -first, that which His father and himself intended in it; and secondly, that which was effectively fulfilled and accomplished by it.

      Owen then describes U, L, and I–
      U – Unconditional Election: The work of God in choosing those He will save (the elect);
      L – Limited atonement: The work of Christ to atone for the sins of those elect;
      I – Irresistible grace: The work of the Holy Spirit to irresistibly and effectually bring the elect to salvation.

      Couple this with the opening arguments in Book IV, and it seems that considerable misunderstanding exists on the intent and extent of the atonement with regard to the argument put forth by Owen.

  6. Dr. Allen writes, “Thus, to answer the first part of your question in your final paragraph, God holds people responsible for a message they have never heard because of what He has said in Romans 1.”

    I think it would be proper to say that God holds people accountable for their sin. They are condemned by their sin. The gospel provides a remedy for their sin. If they do not hear the gospel, they are still accountable fully for their sin; they are disadvantaged because they have no access to a remedy.

    Romans 2 has, “(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)” (v13-15) Thus, there is no excuse.

    As God is always aware of people, should any seek remedy for the wrong that they know they have done, we should be confident that God will bring them within the hearing of the gospel. This is because it is the Holy Spirit who convicts of sin and God will not convict any of their sin without also providing knowledge of the remedy for that sin.

  7. As one immersed in Calvinism, I would say what the non-elect are guilty of in that scheme is original sin. Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save it for the world was already condemned (in Adam’s Fall). Under Limited Atonement the non-elect cannot be guilty of rejecting the atonement. However, due to your writings I no longer hold to LA. Blessed relief!

  8. The key work that challenges Death of Death head on and rebuts it is:

    Chambers, N.A. “A Critical Examination of John Owen’s Argument for Limited Atonement in the Death of Death in the Death of Christ,” Th.M. thesis, Reformed Theological Seminary, 1998.

    This is a definitive critique and refutation of the internal logic and exegesis of Owen’s Death of Death.

    On Owen and the sufficiency of the satisfaction, your comments, rhutchin, are a little confused.

    Allen is right to say that Owen collapses intent into extent. When Owen speaks of the sufficiency, its only to its inherent or internal value, not to its applicability.

    I’ve posted a lot of sources on the sufficiency doctrine and its revision here: http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?page_id=7327

    David

  9. Regarding intent and extent in Owen.

    Intent is: those whom Christ has designed to save.

    Extent is: the extent of the satisfaction. That is, for whose sins was Christ punished? Or more formally, what is the extent of the satisfaction or who are the objects of the satisfaction (Turretin)?

    For Owen, the intent is limited to the elect. For Owen, the extent is limited to the elect. The latter is true because he holds that Christ suffered only for the sins of the elect or Christ made a satisfaction for the sins of the elect alone.

    When Owen affirms the satisfaction sufficiency, its only with regard to its internal value, and its hypothetical applicability to others not elected.

    Hope that helps,
    David

    • In the definitions of intent and extent above, I do not see a difference between “those whom Christ has designed to save” and “for whose sins was Christ punished?…who are the objects of the satisfaction.” They say the same thing to me. Those who God intended to save (His elect) are those for whom Christ suffered and died. Whether Owen “collapses intent into extent” seems irrelevant to me; or that Owen even cares about such. So, why should we care?

      I see Owen thinking of extent as he writes, “Sufficient we say, then, was the sacrifice of Christ for the redemption of the whole world, and for the expiation of all the sins of all and every man in the world.” If that is not what others do, then so what; it is what Owen says about the value or worth of Christ’s death.

      Nonetheless, if one is to argue against Owen, he will need to argue on Owen’s turf consistent with the definitions that Owen uses. Otherwise, what is accomplished?

  10. Hey there rhutchin,

    You say: In the definitions of intent and extent above, I do not see a difference between “those whom Christ has designed to save” and “for whose sins was Christ punished?…who are the objects of the satisfaction.” They say the same thing to me. Those who God intended to save (His elect) are those for whom Christ suffered and died. Whether Owen “collapses intent into extent” seems irrelevant to me; or that Owen even cares about such. So, why should we care?

    David: There is no difference because intent and extent is the same. Any TULIP text will say the same thing. The extent of the satisfaction is limited to the elect, and the intent of the satisfaction is limited to the elect. For the latter, the satisfaction was never “intended” to save, or to be satisfaction.

    You say: I see Owen thinking of extent as he writes, “Sufficient we say, then, was the sacrifice of Christ for the redemption of the whole world, and for the expiation of all the sins of all and every man in the world.” If that is not what others do, then so what; it is what Owen says about the value or worth of Christ’s death.

    David:

    Here is the Owen in context:

    Owen:

    1) Neither may we be charged as straiteners of the merit of Christ; for we advance the true value and worth thereof (as hereafter will appear) far beyond all the Arminians ascribe unto it. We confess that that “blood of God,” Acts 20:28, of the “Lamb without blemish and without spot,” 1 Peter 1:19, was so exceedingly precious, of that infinite worth and value, that it might have saved a thousand believing worlds, John 3:16; Romans 3:22. His death was of sufficient dignity to have been made a ransom for all the sins of every one in the world. “Display,”in Works, 10:89; cf., Display (Still Waters ed.), 89.

    2) The first thing that we shall lay down is concerning the dignity, worth, preciousness, and infinite value of the blood and death of Jesus Christ. The maintaining and declaring of this is doubtless especially to be considered; and every opinion that doth but seemingly clash against it is exceedingly prejudiced, at least deservedly suspected, yea, presently to be rejected by Christians, if upon search it be found to do so really and indeed, as that which is injurious and derogatory to the merit and honour of Jesus Christ. The Scripture, also, to this purpose is exceeding full and frequent in setting forth the excellency and dignity of his death and sacrifice, calling his blood, by reason of the unity of his person, “God’s own blood,” Acts xx. 28; exalting it infinitely above all other sacrifices, as having for its principle “the eternal Spirit,” and being itself “without spot,” Heb.ix. 14; transcendently more precious than silver, or gold, or corruptible things, 1 Pet. i. 18; able to give justification from all things, from which by the law men could not be justified, Acts xiii. 28. Now, such as was the sacrifice and offering of Christ in itself, such was it intended by his Father it should be. It was, then, the purpose and intention of God that his Son should offer a sacrifice of infinite worth, value, and dignity, sufficient in itself for the redeeming of all and every man, if it had pleased the Lord to employ it to that purpose; yea, and of other worlds also, if the Lord should freely make them, and would redeem them. Sufficient we say, then, was the sacrifice of Christ for the redemption of the whole world, and for the expiation of all the sins of all and every man in the world. This sufficiency of his sacrifice hath a twofold rise:— First, The dignity of the person that did offer and was offered. Secondly, The greatness of the pain he endured, by which he was able to bear, and did undergo, the whole curse of the law and wrath of God due to sin. And this sets out the innate, real, true worth and value of the blood-shedding of Jesus Christ. This is its own true internal perfection and sufficiency. That it should be applied unto any, made a price for them, and become beneficial to them, according to the worth that is in it, is external to it, doth not arise from it, but merely depends upon the intention and will of God. It was in itself of infinite value and sufficiency to have been made a price to have bought and purchased all and every man in the world. That it did formally become a price for any is solely to be ascribed to the purpose of God, intending their purchase and redemption by it. The intention of the offerer and accepter that it should be for such, some, or any, is that which gives the formality of a price unto it; this is external. But the value and fitness of it to be made a price ariseth from its own internal sufficiency. Hence may appear what is to be thought of that old distinction of the schoolmen, embraced and used by divers protestant divines, though by others again rejected,–namely, “That Christ died for all in respect of the sufficiency of the ransom he paid, but not in respect of the efficacy of its application;” or, “The blood of Christ was a sufficient price for the sins of all the world;” –which last expression is corrected by some, and thus asserted, “That the blood of Christ was sufficient to have been made a price for all;” which is most true, as was before declared: for its being a price for all or some doth not arise from its own sufficiency, worth, or dignity, but from the intention of God and Christ using it to that purpose, as was declared; and, therefore, it is denied that the blood of Christ was a sufficient price and ransom for all and every one, not because it was not sufficient, but because it was not a ransom. And so it easily appears what is to be owned in the distinction itself before expressed. If it intend no more but that the blood of our Saviour was of sufficient value for the redemption of all and every one, and that Christ intended to lay down a price which should be sufficient for their redemption, it is acknowledged as most true. But the truth is, that expression, “To die for them,” holds out the intention of our Saviour, in the laying down of the price, to have been their redemption; which we deny, and affirm that then it could not be but that they must be made actual partakers of the eternal redemption purchased for them, unless God failed in his design, through the defect of the ransom paid by Christ, his justice refusing to give a dismission upon the delivery of the ransom. Now, the infinite value and worth which we assert to be in the death of Christ we conceive to be exceedingly undervalued by the assertors of universal redemption; for that it should be extended to this or that object, fewer or more, we showed before to be extrinsical to it. But its true worth consists in the immediate effects, products, and issues of it, with what in its own nature it is fit and able to do; which they openly and apparently undervalue, yea, almost annihilate. Hence those expressions concerning it:–First, That by it a door of grace was opened for sinners: where, I suppose, they know not; but that any were [ever] effectually carried in at the door by it, that they deny. Secondly, That God might, if he would, and upon what condition he pleased, save those for whom Christ died. That a right of salvation was by him purchased for any, they deny. Hence they grant, that after the death of Christ,–first, God might have dealt with man upon a legal condition again; secondly, That all and every man might have been damned, and yet the death of Christ have had its full effect; as also, moreover, That faith and sanctification are not purchased by his death, yea, no more for any (as before) than what he may go to hell withal. And divers other ways do they express their low thoughts and slight imaginations concerning the innate value and sufficiency of the death and blood-shedding of Jesus Christ. To the honour, then, of Jesus Christ our Mediator, God and man, our all-sufficient Redeemer, we affirm, such and so great was the dignity and worth of his death and blood-shedding, of so precious a value, of such an infinite fulness and sufficiency was this oblation of himself, that it was every way able and perfectly sufficient to redeem, justify, and reconcile and save all the sinners in the world, and to satisfy the justice of God for all the sins of all mankind, and to bring them every one to everlasting glory. Now, this fulness and sufficiency of the merit of the death of Christ is a foundation unto two things:. . . . John Owen, “Death of Death,” in Works, 10:295-297.

    David: Note that he denies the classic Lombardian understanding of the sufficiency-efficiency distinction. Then he gives his own version of it. For Owen the sufficiency has two aspects, its internal sufficiency, which means its value, and its external sufficiency. For Owen, the internal nature of the satisfaction is of infinite value (sufficiency) that it could have been made externally sufficient for all. So while its internally sufficient for all, externally, its not sufficient for all: because its not a sufficient price for all. That can only mean that the ransom “price” is not actually sufficient for all men. Considered merely in terms of its internal or inherent value (Christ did not have to suffer so much for so much sin, or suffer more had God elected more) it is sufficient for all. But considered in terms of the actual price laid down, the sufficiency of that price is not for all.

    For Owen and others, they employed what we in English call the contrary-to-fact hypothetical subjunctive. Had or if God elected more, or had Christ died for me, then the satisfaction of Christ would have been sufficient for them too.

    And this inherent infinite value has nothing to do with any divine intention, relative to the death of Christ and the objects of satisfaction.

    You say: Nonetheless, if one is to argue against Owen, he will need to argue on Owen’s turf consistent with the definitions that Owen uses. Otherwise, what is accomplished?

    David: How about reading him in context? Owen also reflects a wider move to deny the original Lombardian reading of the sufficiency and replace it with a new understanding. This new understanding could only affirm that the satisfaction’s internal or inherent value was infinite, but when considered as a price of redemption, its value is limited, and that to the elect alone.

    Thanks for your time,
    David.

  11. You’ve probably done this elsewhere, but could you compare and contrast Owen’s view and the Lombardian formula? I am not sure I am certain what the difference is between “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect” and Owen’s “intrinsically sufficient for all, extrinsically sufficient only for the elect.” The context you gave above makes it seem to me like he is saying the same thing. The only difference I can see is that he seems to making an artificial distinction making the actual death of Christ sufficient only for some, though in potential it could be sufficient for all (i.e. potential extent vs. actual extent). Does this mean that the Lombardian formula means that in actuality, the death of Christ was paid for all despite being only applied to some? (i.e. extent vs. intent?)

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